Refusing to Be Erased
Claiming Our Identity
Very recently, I had a disturbing, unwelcomed debate with a colleague about my experiences as a TCK. As I tried to discuss why TCK’s need support systems and services delivered by TCK’s with common backgrounds rather than people who cannot relate, he challenged every point I raised. He questioned the credibility of books that have been published about the TCK experience. He doubted the validity of how professional PTSD counselors diagnose TCK children who experienced multiple losses but not physical war or violence as showing PTSD symptoms. He even questioned the appropriateness of term “TCK tribe,” even as I explained to him that the larger TCK community have come to commonly use this term with a sense of empowerment.
He just could not accept that “people who have gone through certain experiences should be the experts of their own experiences.” When I no longer allowed him to continue debating me about what I repetitively described as “close to my heart” (from the first several minutes of to my last sentences in the conversation), and therefore “not up for debate” he then resorted to insulting me as a person and human being. Attempts to deflect tension were only met with further insult.
He suggested that I can be the expert of my own personal experiences, but not for the shared experiences I have in common with others.
Just to give some perspective about how widely accepted the TCK identity is among people who identify with the term, TCKid, just one bare minimum budget, volunteer skeleton crew organization that started helping TCK’s connect in 2008 through its private forum accessible through TCKid.com, connects with over 30,000 Facebook fan page members, on TCKid: A Home for Third Culture Kids and Cross Cultural Kids Everywhere. These members came together years ago to discuss their TCK experiences and this number does not include members lost due to adjustments made by Facebook over the years. There are about 4000 and growing members who still remain on TCKid’s private forum, despite the various trends of social media in recent years. Now, Buzzfeed itself publishes TCK articles, such as “31 Signs You’re a Third Culture Kid” and “26 Decisions That Are Incredibly Difficult for TCK’s.”
There was one small area of debate my colleague ceded: He suggested that I can be the expert of my own personal experiences, but not for the shared experiences I have in common with others.
Let me be clear on this: The concept that people can only be the experts of their own personal lives, but not the validated experiences they share with others in the TCK or global nomad tribe, would disrespectfully dismiss all the personal sacrifices and work that has been accomplished to push the experiences of globally mobile families out of marginalized darkness.
If TCK’s, as a tribe, do not protect ownership of our collective identity or the language we use to narrate our experiences, we as a tribe, get erased. The moment we passively let someone who does not genuinely support the reality of our identity claim authority over our experiences or the language we use as a tribe is the moment we discard our growth and progress out of a place of invisibility. It would erase a self-less collective reverence for all who have come before us and the earned wisdom established that can pave the path for the younger generations in our tribe. We would go back to being invisible.
Relinquishing our claim to the commonality of certain shared experiences as a TCK tribe would dismiss the pioneering work…
Relinquishing our claim to the commonality of certain shared experiences as a TCK tribe would dismiss the pioneering work of Dr. Ruth Hill Useem, the sociologist and researcher who coined the term “Third Culture Kid” in the 1950’s based on her observations about shared experiences and field research she conducted on TCK populations in 76 countries, as well as of Dr. John Useem, Dr. Ann Baker Cottrell and Dr. Kathleen A. Finn Jordan who later joined her in research (please click here to see the original source of information created by Army Brat Samuel L. Britten, now archived as caches. If using information form these cached sites, please give due credit to his Samuel L. Britten. TCKid has no affiliation with the current working site.) It would dismiss all the work and research that has been conducted since then, such as the recent research of Dr. Danau Tanu on Asian TCK’s. We are also talking here about the work of people who brought the term beyond residing mostly in academia and into our homes and personal conversations. David Pollock, co-author with Ruth Van Reken of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, went “around the world, school to school” and despite encountering people who “didn’t believe in it“(Van Reken, Ruth. “TCKid Talks: Ruth Van Reken and Michael Pollock.” 5:30-5:50 Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 26 Oct. 2013), pushed all the way through until a book was written, which was finally published in 1999.